Oldham close to Super League club link-up

Oldham are the latest Championship club closing in on a partnership deal with a Super League counterpart.

Following a revamp of the academy structure, Super League clubs are being encouraged by the RFL to partner clubs in the second and third tiers, and Hull, Leeds, Warrington and Bradford have all announced link ups with York, Hunslet, Swinton and Dewsbury respectively in recent months.

Oldham chairman Chris Hamilton said: “We have talked with various Super League clubs and we are well down the line towards putting something in place.

“We don’t want to miss out on what’s happening, but at the same time we need to make sure that both clubs will benefit from the partnership, not just one.

“I must stress also that we will not be selling our soul. Whatever happens, the Oldham club’s independence will be retained.”

For the last few years clubs in the elite competition have run under-18s and under-20s teams, the latter allowing for the use of five over-age players at any one time.

Under the new system the under-18s are to become under-19s and the under-20s have been scrapped, with the result that an estimated 150 young players with Super League clubs are now looking for new deals with Championship or Championship One clubs.

It is proposed that all but the six Super League clubs which are considered by the RFL to have the best and strongest youth development schemes in place already will be urged to run under-23s squads in a whole-game under-23s comp which would also include teams from those clubs in Championship and Championship One which, like Oldham, choose to operate a reserve side.

Hamilton added: “At a meeting of Championship and Championship One clubs a month ago a large part of the meeting was taken up by discussion on how these proposals would impact on our clubs.

“By forming partnerships, Super League players who have not been released but who at any given time are not getting into first teams would get first-team opportunities with their partner clubs.

“We are still waiting for RFL rulings on the finer points of that arrangement and on other aspects of the partnership system.

“Also, would our under-18s be allowed to mirror Super League and become under-19s ?

“We are also waiting to find out how many clubs, both Super League and others, will be running under-23s teams.

“In short, we are in need of the RFL’s basic parameters on all of these proposed changes, in terms of both signing players and putting our plans in place for 2013 and finalising a partnership agreement.

“Theoretically, a Super League club could dual-register its entire first-team squad with its partner club, but we need regulations on how many we could play at any one time.

“There will be lots of Super League or ex-Super League players in the two Championship divisions next year and that will make both competitions stronger.

“We are currently talking to a number of the players who have been released by Super League clubs as a direct result of the changes.”

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